I am not a true city person

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, October 02, 2007 |

Our normal exit ramp was closed off the highway after a Sunday afternoon at the pumpkin patch where we fought off bees trying to climb into our gallon jug of cider and bought homemade watermelon pickles and breathed in thousands of hay particles following the kid on our knees through labyrinthine tunnels built under a giant pile of straw. Actually my wife didn't do that; I did that, though she paid for the pickles and the donuts and the pie pumpkin that Juniper spent all day carrying around like a trophy she won for being such a giant pain in my ass.

So we took an earlier exit, finding ourselves jettisoned from the highway onto one of the thirty or so serpentine off-ramps that commit you to one of the various arteries through the city. This one left us sitting nearly at the foot of Ford Field, where apparently the Detroit Lions had finished their fourth quarter only moments before, surging against the Bears with 34 points in those final fifteen minutes. So at least the 65,000 or so drunk bejerseyed people streaming around our car in one massive human sea were happy, except for those heavyset men wearing navy and orange, who had a long drive back to the Windy City ahead of them and a lot of bratwurst and $9.75 beers in their bellies. I sure wouldn't want to share an SUV with one of them for five hours.

It was the worst possible timing. We were stuck in our idling car for twenty minutes, staring at the white-gloved palm of a lady cop while tens of thousands of people I didn't really care to know I shared oxygen with shuffled past us. We passed the time pretending to talk like those Chicago Bears guys on the old Saturday Night Live sketch, except neither Wood nor I can do any accent properly. We always end up sounding like Indian convenience store clerks raised by my Dutch grandmother among marshmallow-cereal leprechauns in an Irish theme pub. The one-way street we were stuck on was heading the opposite way we wanted to go; to get back home we knew we needed to get through the mess another time. Morale was not good.

Part of the reason I like living in downtown Detroit is that it satisfies a desire I have to live in the country. This is a satisfaction the island of Manhattan or downtown Chicago cannot provide. See, there's hardly ever anybody here. At certain times, even on the biggest streets, you can feel like you are the only person left on earth. Living here can lull anyone with even the slightest misanthropic tendencies into believing that the post apocalypse won't be that bad after all. But then, before that belief can fully set, there's a football game and you remember that the post-apocalyptic world is going to be run by guys wearing football shoulder pads with red mohawks and wrist crossbows. It makes me want to move to Iceland, where the post-apocalypse will be run by leggy, tolerant Scandinavians who skinnydip in geothermal pools. I would happily eat pickled ram scrota living out the apocalypse there.

When we finally got home, Wood and I had a breakdown in communication, which is another way of saying we had a huge shitty fight about putting the groceries away or something stupid like that. I wasn't angry at her, but I had grown so frustrated by the experience of driving through the city when it was acting like a proper city and not some rural hamlet that I just lashed out. We were supposed to go meet the Summers at a restaurant downtown but I was too terrified to get back in the car, too angry to talk. Wood left me alone until I came to my senses, finally convincing me it would be okay and that the football people were long gone by now. She was right. The roads were Sunday-afternoon empty again. We saw a wild pheasant crossing Gratiot. The Summers had already emptied their first pints when we got to the near-empty restaurant, and had ordered another. All was right with the world again.